First, an explanation. I have a bit of blogging block. I’m working on some Cake releases for the beginning of next year- three ensembles. I can’t write much more about it right now, even though I’m dying to! I’m also finishing up the shipping/distribution work for the Tiramisu Pattern, it’s a little tricky as the printer is in Kansas and I’m in Brisbane, Australia. It should work out just fine, but it must be organized so I can ship the patterns to y’all as soon as they come off the press (or shortly thereafter!). Then there’s also the Cake site that requires my attention, and the electronic pattern files to prepare. And my pattern-alteration email clients are a top priority in my everyday. It’s all quite manageable, but it takes time. So does blogging.
When I don’t write for several days on end, it’s because I’m putting in time working on something I think you’ll dig more than this old blog. :) Really, I wish I could just show you everything I’m working on for Cake releases right now. I’m not sure how to navigate the balance between blogging and other work, I enjoy writing but it takes a great deal of time. This used to be something of a record for me of my sewing, but that doesn’t feel quite right any more. I hope you don’t mind while I take time for Cake and also experiment with different kinds of posts….
Right, well, now to the gossip… The topic of using quilting cotton for apparel comes up in sewy circles constantly. I’ve had a few questions about the exact definition of “quilting cotton” so I thought I’d offer my own explanation via fabric store gossip.
When you work in a quilting shop, you pick up a certain amount of “gossip” from visiting fabric merchants and wholesalers about fabric types, what’s popular and selling well, as well as various information about the fabric itself. Once I asked our fabric rep at work why we had a bolt of quilting cotton on the shelf for $20/m when I could cross the parking lot to Spotlight (like Joann’s) and buy the same print for half the price or less.
He’s spent his career handling these printed woven fabrics and explained to me that when printing a “run” of fabric, the inks and the print alignment must be checked. They use low-quality pigment and cheaper grade cotton fabric to test the print run. When they’re happy with the alignment and colors, they switch in the good quality fabrics and inks.
This is the difference between cheap quilting cotton and “the good stuff.”
Another quality of quilting cotton is its density, and the tightness of the threads used to weave the fabric. Higher quality cotton especially has very tightly wound threads of long, quality fibers. The shorter fibers are used for cheaper fabrics, which often causes worn spots in the fabric or pilling. These fine, tightly wound treads are woven very closely.
Closely woven fabric withstands the kind of wear and tear that bedding endures. This is why more expensive sheet sets have higher thread counts- more threads per inch means a smoother surface texture and less abrasion against the body. This makes it both comfortable for sleeping and longer lasting.
These tight, close fabrics generally don’t have much “give”- they refuse to ease, or only after much persuasion from a hot and steamy iron.
During Frosting Fortnight, I’ve been rummaging through my vast store of “frosting”- fancy stuff, impractical design experiments, as well as garments I just don’t wear for whatever reason. I had several shirts in that last category made of quilting cotton. I’ve been looking at them and wearing them around during FF to help me decide which to keep and which to use for scraps.
Tilly wrote an excellent post recently about rules for using quilting cotton well. She’s brilliant, Tilly:
1. Determine how much drape or stiffness your project needs
2. Avoid projects with sleeves
3. Be realistic about what prints you are likely to wear
4. Consider adding a lining.
Agreed. I don’t have any skirts of quilting cotton, but in the past I felt I had to line my quilting cotton skirts. It gives the fabric better drape and doesn’t tend to wrinkle and bunch as much.
5. Experiment and embrace!-
In my own experience, I find quilting-cotton-for-apparel works best with simple pattern shapes, minimum seaming and design details. The tops I saved are quite comfy for summer wear, even if they don’t flatter my figure (what is “flattering”, anyway?)
Next up I’ll show you two deep dark wardrobe secrets (my favorite skirt of all time is made of polyester and it will have to be pried from my cold dead fingers!), and I’m working on a sewists’ pictorial guide to recycling dead or wrong clothes.